Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Felt making again (at last!)

 It has been over a year since I made any felt from scratch (hangs head in shame!).  So, I decided this disgraceful state of affairs had to be sorted.  I needed some stripy felt for a project and I had also been inspired by a programme on Scottish Art which showed neolithic cup and ring carvings, which I thought might translate well into felt.  Circles and spirals seem to have been an inspiration to many people and cultures all through the past, and there is something very satisfying about those particular shapes.  
Armed with my enthusiasm, I got making.  (I was slightly concerned in case I had forgotten how to make felt, but needn't have worried, as it all came back to me!)  I used merino wool as it blends easily and felts quite quickly.
Here is an example of one of the cup and ring carvings. (photo from:
 http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/scotlandshistory/earlypeople/cupringmarks/index.asp)
Here is my interpretation, before felting.  I made this as a practise piece, because I want to add surface texture with embroidery, which I haven't quite managed to do yet. 
I had already used the stripy piece before realising I hadn't taken a photo of it after felting, so this shows half of it.  I like the way the stripes aren't regular, but that is one of the lovely things about felt making - the wool does decide how it wants to be during the process and the maker can only alter it so much.
Here's the circle/spiral piece after felting.  The concentric circles and spirals moved about a bit despite me trying to keep them in one place, but I am pleased with the overall effect.
 Now I need to get embroidering...

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Winter in the garden

 This was the sky at sunrise this morning and today has proved to be rather windy, with rubbish bins blowing over outside.  'Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning' indeed.
In the garden, the snowdrops are in flower and these started flowering in December.
 I think this variety came from my mum's garden.
 The winter flowering jasmine still has a few flowers in it, and you can see the leaves starting to grow.  It began flowering in December too.
The winter flowering honeysuckle is also still in bloom, and yes, this also started flowering in December, which is really early for this plant.  Normally, it doesn't start flowering until late January.
It really needs a bit of sun in order to release the beautiful lily of the valley fragrance.  Lots of bulbs are starting to show their leaves too and there are more snowdrops to look forward too.  I haven't spent that much time in the garden recently, but I have been making plans.  Lots of plants need to be re-potted...

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Mystery bulbs and how sometimes I am not such a good gardener

 On one of my meanders down the garden, I noticed some bulbs which had obviously fallen out of a pot, lying on the top on a larger pot.  There was no name with them, so I am not sure whether they are snowdrops, grape hyacinths, crocuses, scillas, pushkinias, snake's head fritillaries or something else.  I felt really sorry for them as they were doing their best to grow with no soil.
 Then I saw these bulbs, half in a pot, again, doing their best to grow.  I really am not a very good gardener when I let this happen!  Still, giving myself a talking to, I replanted them on a very cold morning last weekend.
 Here are the little bulbs safely in a pot now...
...and the bigger ones, decently covered up.  I now have to wait and see what they are.  Note to self: keep an eye on pots of bulbs and try to remember to label them!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Bother, Bother, Bother that cat!

For anyone who knows the Mog stories by Judith Kerr, the title of this post will be familiar.  Mog gets into all kinds of scrapes which her family are increasingly exasperated by until she starts licking Debbie's hair during the night and making her think she's being eaten by a tiger.  However, in the end, she saves the day and is a hero.  While Scruffy hasn't been giving us bad dreams (I am pleased to say) he has been in yet another scrape recently.
(He doesn't like having his photo taken and usually closes his eyes - I was lucky in this photo because he wasn't looking straight at me. )
 See - closes his eyes...
And again in this photo...
Scruffy has always been a bit of a worry.  He has an itchy skin condition which means a trip to the vet for a steroid injection every few months.   He is also a bit of a bruiser when he is patrolling his territory and has had a few injuries from some of the many cats that live around the area.  He was a bit subdued last Thursday night and Friday morning and on Friday evening, when we got home, we noticed blood on his neck.  Luckily the vet could fit us in and off we went.  He had been fighting and had received a bite on his neck which had become infected.  The vet sorted him out and said he had been really lucky because the bite was nasty and had been very near an artery!
So, he is taking his antibiotics and we are relieved that he doesn't seem to be staying outside for quite so long.  He is the most bothersome cat we have ever had, but we do love him!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

12 Days of Christmas Swap - the results!

 The Twelve Days of Christmas have some to an end and so has the swap, organised by Jo at Through the Keyhole.  I was partnered up with Sally at Crafty Northerner.  We did the usual checking each other's blogs and emailing to find out particular likes and dislikes and then got making, buying, wrapping and posting.  I really enjoyed this swap and received some wonderful gifts.
 A week planner and pencil; snowman socks; Star Baker notebook (perfect for special recipes), hundreds and thousands and a cake fridge magnet; heart ribbon and Christmas baubles ribbon.
 Then there was: a bag of glass beads; some gorgeous red and white Scandi inspired material; The Miniaturist novel; a red bead bracelet.
 The final four gifts were: a bag of assorted pretty buttons and a crocheted star brooch; a felt Christmas tree decoration; magnetic pegs; some luxurious glitter paper.  Didn't I do well?  Sally managed this despite having a house for sale and getting sorted, so a HUGE thank you goes to her!
It's interesting how similar some of the things we sent were. Sally told me she liked flamingos, blue, making cards and baking, so off I went...  I sent her a little pack of papers and card making bits and pieces; some ribbon; some magnets and magnet pegs; a notebook with a flamingo painted on it; a set of Christmas cake cases with some chocs, a blue bracelet; a pair of earrings; a blue keyring; some pens; a felt star decoration; flamingo bunting and a cuddly flamingo (yes, there was a little bit of a theme!)
I was especially pleased to have been able to find the different flamingo material and Chris liked the finished bunting, suggesting that we should have some for us as well!
Many thanks go to Jo for doing all the organising (I really hope she'll run the swap again next year because it was lovely to put together all the gifts and made Christmas last just that little bit longer) and also to Sally for being such a great swap partner.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year 2016

 Happy New Year!  
(Photos from Daily Mail online)
As has become a bit of a tradition with my blog, today is the day I review my aims for 2015 and decide on aims for 2016.

  • Make more felt - total failure here as I haven't made any new felt pieces in the last year.  I have used my felt to make lots of things, but I need to make sure I keep going with my felt making. Jewellery making and sewing seem to have taken over during the last year, but I'm sure I can find a bit more time for all of them!
  • Read interesting books - success again with this aim as I have read some fascinating books this year: The Lost Pre-Raphaelite, The history of Colour, The Criminal Conversations of Mrs Norton (about the first woman to bring to public notice the way the law did not recognise women), a biography of Louisa M Alcott, Jonathan Srange and Mr Norrell,  the Merry Hall Trilogy by Beverley Nichols...in total, 63.
  • Be Creative - I continued with various creative activities including starting kumihimo, using a heat gun to emboss stamped images, using foil flakes to embellish stamped images, more sewing, gardening. This will be a continued aim for this year too.
  • Get rid of/donate things I do not want or need - this is ongoing but has become more pressing now as we have both decided we have too much stuff, and it is beginning to depress us.  The time has come to really get to grips with it and decide what we do need/want and get rid of things we don't.  It sounds easy, doesn't it, but it isn't!  However, this is a major aim for both of us for 2016.
So, no new aims there - but enough to keep me busy and creative in 2016.
 Happy New Year to you all and I hope it is a healthy and prosperous one.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Happy Christmas

I'd like to wish you all a Happy Christmas and thought I'd share some recent sunrise photos with you.  I'm not often up early enough (or am 'with-it' enough to grab my camera), but I did manage to catch these recently.  
 Living in a city, there are always aerials and the odd roof which creep into the frame, but the sky is still the star.
Finally, here's Scruffy (he isn't chilled or relaxing here, he is waiting for a foolish person (usually Chris) to attempt to tickle his tummy.) To do that is to invite untold scratches from some extremely sharp claws...
I'll be posting in a few days about the Twelve Days of Christmas swap and what I received in my parcels...
May you all have a lovely Christmas.  

Friday, 18 December 2015

Christmas Cracker swap

I have taken part in Tracey's (Mad About Bags) Christmas Cracker swap for a few years now and it is one of my favourites.  You just have to fill a kitchen roll inside with lots of little gifts and wrap the filled tube in material.  I was partnered up with Melanie of The Patchwork Robin , which was lovely as we had been partnered up before in a different swap, so we had already done a bit of research about each other's likes and dislikes.  I received the lovely cracker above, packed full with little golden treasures...
as well as some printed linen ribbon, two seasonal green teas, some chocolate coins and a genius ideas to make your own apron (perfect colours for me too, with the teal pattern).
 Once the little golden parcels were opened, here's what they contained: seasonal washi tapes; a tape ribbon and Christmas ribbon; a pair of scissors with a scissor lock so they can't be used for anything other than material or thread cutting (!); some rose scented hand cream (which is gorgeous); a fridge magnet all about cakes and a candy cane.
 The linen ribbon is beautiful and I felt it deserved a close up!
 A HUGE thank you to Melanie for being so generous and choosing such lovely gifts for me and thanks to Tracey for organising such a fabulous seasonal swap each year.
 Here's my cracker for Melanie.
Material with a sewing theme, sewing thread, Christmas ribbon, a magnet peg, hot chocolate drink, mini chocolate reindeer, a felt bird, a key ring/bag charm, a pair of earrings and a bracelet.  I thoroughly enjoyed being part of this swap and am looking forward to next year's already!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Trying something new - Zentangle

 I have always enjoyed doodling - just drawing patterns on scraps of paper, letting my mind wander.  I have given in and tried Zentangle, which is the next stage on to just doodling. Zentangle is a way of filling in shapes with repeating patterns, but the patterns can be as simple or complex as you like and the whole process is supposed to be relaxing and meditative.
 Each of the patterns has a name and there are hundreds and probably thousands to choose from.  I started by following a book, but the internet has a plethora of information on there.
 I do like the organic patterns, but I also enjoy building up a simple pattern into something which looks incredibly complicated.  However, when the patterns are broken down into steps, they seem relatively easy to do.
It is a relaxing process and there is no right or wrong (however, me being a bit of a perfectionist, had to re-do a pattern which didn't fit well into the space I had put it and I was much happier with a second attempt).  The other good thing is that you begin with a square, then split it into shapes and then fill each shape, so you are not greeted with a huge sheet of white paper, which can be a little off-putting.  It is also something that can be done in a spare minute, without lots of equipment - paper, a smooth gel pen, and a ruler and pencil.  Are you tempted yet?

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Twelve Days of Christmas swap

I signed up to the Twelve Days of Christmas swap, organised by Jo at Through the Keyhole who was inspired by a swap she had with a friend last year.  The ideas was to provide twelve gifts, one to be opened every day after Christmas Day.  When I read about it, I thought it was a lovely idea and signed up. I was partnered with Sally from Crafty Northerner and we did the usual emailing to find out about each other and looked at blogs too.  
Here is the lovely box of goodies I received from Sally.  Needless to say, I am excited about them and it will be a challenge for me to wait (but I will!)
Here is the set of gifts I sent to Sally, which I really hope she likes.  I think it is a really nice way to continue Christmas, right through to New Year.  Thanks to Jo for organising and a HUGE thank you to Sally for being a super swap partner.  I shall post about the gifts over Christmas.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

December already?

Here we are in December - where has this year gone?  It's true, the older you get, the quicker time seems to go.  The garden seems to have been somewhat confused too, but this is down to mild weather rather than the onset of middle age.  For instance, the winter flowering honeysuckle, which usually flowers in late January and through February is flowering now.  This could mean that 1. it's just confused or 2. it's going to die and is having one last hurrah.  I rather hope it's the first of these options.  
 In the meantime, the winter flowering jasmine is doing what it should and is brightening up the dull weather with splashes of yellow flowers.
 It has a straggly appearance, but this is partly because I don't train it properly.  I like the cheerful flowers though.
 The cheerful violas in the wall basket at the front of the house are settling in nicely and make me smile.
 Rose Blue Eyes is still flowering, despite the battering it has received lately by the wind and rain.  I have finally started to insulate the huge number of potted plants I seem to have slowly acquired over the years.  Not one of my favourite jobs, it has to be said, but it may help those plants to survive whatever the winter has to throw at them.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

4 minutes and 52 seconds of joy

I really like the song 'Uptown Funk', as it is so up beat, so when Chris found this video on Youtube, including many great dancers including Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, The Nicholas brothers and even Laurel and Hardy, I knew I had to share it.  Brilliantly edited and great fun!  Enjoy!  (If you put 'closed captions' on, you'll see the name and year of the films used too.)

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Tulip planting for Spring

Even though it is very mild for the time of year, I decided that I needed to plant my tulips for next Spring.  It is a positive thing to do, as it shows that eventually Winter will end (although it hasn't started yet...)  So, I set to and planted my tulips in pots and tubs.  This year, I have bought:
Princess Irene (the first four photos are from Peter Nyssen's website), to continue my enjoyment of orange in the garden...
 Tulip Negrita which is supposed to be slightly fragrant...
 Tulip China Pink which looks very elegant..
 and Tulip Ronaldo which I have grown before and is a lovely deep purple/black.
Tulip Upstar (photo from vanengelen) was part of my Seasons swap gift, and these have gone into a pot at the front door.
 Of course, I have planted more Ballerina, because it is my favourite tulip and it is beautifully scented. (I haven't got any Red Shine this year - you can see one sneaking into the photo above from my tulips last Spring).
 The mild weather is encouraging some plants to keep flowering.  Above is Rose Blue Eyes (more purple than blue, it has to be said, but very pretty nonetheless), flowering away last week.